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Parliament Majority Rejects ‘Threats’ From Radical Group


Armenia - Senior members of the My Step alliance applaud as Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian arrives at its headquarters in Yerevan, December 10, 2018.

Representatives of the pro-government majority in the Armenian parliament denounced on Tuesday what they called threats to the authorities made by a leader of a party whose members stormed a police station in Yerevan in 2016.

Zhirayr Sefilian of the Sasna Tsrer party demanded on Monday the immediate release of his two loyalists accused of murdering three police officers during the attack. Sefilian threatened to “force” the authorities to free them.

His strongly worded statement fueled media speculation about extreme actions against the Armenian government planned by Sasna Tsrer.

Sefilian dismissed such speculation on Tuesday, accusing unnamed media outlets of “distorting” his statement. He insisted that his party is not planning an armed struggle against the country’s current leadership.

This did not stop senior lawmakers representing Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s My Step alliance from condemning Sefilian.

“They had better finally stop talking in the language of threats,” said Lena Nazarian, a deputy parliament speaker. “That is unacceptable. That will not produce any results.”

“[Sefilian] said, ‘If you don’t free them, we will take some actions,’” Nikolay Baghdasarian, another My Step deputy, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “He then said, ‘No, we won’t take those actions.’”

“He must realize that he cannot adopt such a tone to publicly talk to the government because the government is now doing its best to get the country on its feet, develop its economy and live up to people’s hopes,” said Baghdasarian. “With such actions, he wants to drive a wedge between various representatives of the society, which means playing into the hands of the [former ruling] HHK.”

Vahagn Hovakimian, another Pashinian ally, argued that the government cannot interfere in the ongoing trial of 31 members of the armed group that seized the police station in July 2016. That would be illegal, he said.

All of those defendants except Armen Bilian and Smbat Barseghian were set free pending the outcome of the trials shortly after last spring’s “velvet revolution” led by Pashinian. Bilian and Barseghian stand accused of killing the three policemen during the gunmen’s two-week standoff with security forces.

The armed group stormed the police facility in Yerevan’s southern Erebuni district to demand that then President Serzh Sarkisian free Sefilian and resign. Sefilian was arrested a month before the deadly attack.

Pashinian lambasted Sasna Tsrer in the run-up to the December 2018 parliamentary elections. He said its members and supporters will “feel the taste of asphalt” if they attempt to destabilize the political situation in Armenia.

The warning was prompted by Sasna Tsrer leaders’ claims that the new Armenian parliament will have to be dissolved within two years because the country is now in a post-revolutionary “transitional period.”

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